TMC number two Abhishek Banerjee is slated to lead the protests in Delhi in the absence of Mamata Banerjee.
Fuming against the BJP government for cancelling a train that was to ferry Trinamool Congress supporters to New Delhi for a dharna to demand payment of pending dues, defiant TMC leaders sounded a “Chalo Delhi” call and despatched their supporters in buses instead, but warned that they apprehended trouble when the convoy was to pass through Uttar Pradesh. As per revised plans, the party plans to ferry about 4,000 supporters and MNREGA job card holders and Prime Minister’s Awas Yojana beneficiaries in about 50 buses and private cars.
As per the original plan, the TMC protest would begin at Raj Ghat on 2 October, Gandhi Jayanti, and then move on to Krishi Bhawan, housing the Rural Development Ministry which governs the MNREGA.
Now, with TMC flagging off the buses carrying the protesters from the afternoon, it is a race against time. Party spokesperson Kunal Ghosh said: “We are sending our brothers and sisters by bus to New Delhi since the BJP government, out of fear, refused our booking of a special train. However, our party leaders who are with the convoy have been asked to be on full alert when the buses pass through Uttar Pradesh. We have not forgotten what happened in Godhra when Narendra Modi was Gujarat’s Chief Minister. Yogi Adityanath is no different.”
Sources said that policemen in mufti are also part of the convoy and a constant vigil would be maintained and hourly progress reports would be sent to the police and West Bengal administration after the convoy crossed Bengal’s borders.
Trinamool Congress number two Abhishek Banerjee is slated to lead the protests in Delhi in the absence of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and he has already announced that he would not heed the Enforcement Directorate summons to present himself for questioning in the cash-for-jobs scam on 3 October in Kolkata. “If you think that your petty tactics by halting the train and sending ED-CBI notices, we will lose our courage and won’t protest, you are definitely living in a paradise of hoax,” Abhishek wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “@BJP4India’s repetitive attempts to deprive the people of Bengal of their rights won’t deter us! We will go to Delhi and FIGHT against their INJUSTICES!” he wrote.
“We’ll not yield an inch until our MGNREGA & Awas Yojana funds are released,” the Trinamool Congress said in its handle. Earlier this week, the party had dispatched 50 lakh letters from the beneficiaries addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi demanding payment of the arrears.
According to the West Bengal Government, the Union Rural Development Ministry has not paid Rs15,000 crores under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) and the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Gramin (PMAY-G) to the State. In both cases, the Union Government found a series of irregularities and accused the State of flouting guidelines.
Even as the excitement over the Delhi trip spilled over among the party’s rank and file and the party sent out tweet after tweet to keep the morale high, the underlying apprehension about what would happen if Abhishek Banerjee skipped the Enforcement Directorate summons to present himself for questioning in the job scam case in Kolkata on October was palpable.
On Friday, the Calcutta High Court had ordered the summary removal of ED Assistant Director Mithilesh Kumar Mishra, who was heading the probe into the cash for jobs scam, and had ordered that the ED should take all necessary action to ensure that the 3 October questioning of Abhishek Banerjee took place without any obstacle. The Calcutta HC bench of Justice Amrita Sinha said the court’s “conscience was shocked by the way in which this investigation is proceeding”, and ordered that Mithilesh Kumar Mishra to be kept out of any ED probe related to West Bengal.
“The director of the Enforcement Directorate is instructed to immediately assign the work entrusted to Mishra to some other competent officer,” said Justice Amrita Sinha, who held that Mishra’s answers to its queries during his appearance in the previous hearing were unsatisfactory.
“On the last occasion, the court interacted with Shri Mishra, who was unable to provide satisfactory answers to the court’s question. The court is convinced that the said officer will not be competent enough to handle the present case, which is of a huge magnitude… Shri Mishra shall be relieved from the investigation of the present case. Shri Mishra may be engaged in some other case, but will not be entrusted to investigate any case arising in the state of West Bengal,” the bench said.
The bench had earlier expressed displeasure at the ED’s incomplete report on the assets of Abhishek Banerjee, who is an MP and the CEO of Leaps and Bounds Private Limited, which allegedly benefited from the school jobs scam. “The list of assets of Abhishek Banerjee…You say he has only three insurance policies till date and nothing else? Is that so! What does “till date” mean? He’s an MP, he doesn’t have a bank account? Where is he receiving his salary?” the bench said during the hearing.
“You had said the company Leaps and Bounds has been engaged in dubious transactions. What did you have to arrive at that finding? You say land was owned by the company…where are the details of the land? You have not mentioned anything else. You are (CBI and ED) the best investigative agencies in the country… with the best minds. Why did the court need to pass an order calling for the list of assets? It is your duty. The court is supervising it… We cannot tell you how to investigate because that is your expertise,” Justice Sinha said.
The bench has asked for a detailed list of assets owned and bank accounts operated by Abhishek Banerjee, along with the financial records of a company owned by his mother Lata Banerjee, as well as the personal assets of the directors including Abhishek’s parents Amit and Lata Banerjee. Amit Banerjee is the elder brother of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. The court has also asked for a full and comprehensive report from the ED on its conduct of the investigation which has to be presented on 10 October.